Candy Cane Lane

Directed By Reginald Hudlin

Starring – Eddie Murphy, Tracee Ellis Ross, Jillian Bell

The Plot – A man (Murphy) is determined to win the neighborhood’s annual Christmas decorating contest. He makes a pact with an elf (Bell) to help him win, and the elf casts a spell that brings the 12 days of Christmas to life, which brings unexpected chaos to town.

Rated PG for adult language throughout and some suggestive references

Candy Cane Lane – Official Trailer | Prime Video – YouTube


On the most basic level, this film is unapologetically Christmas, with a magnitude of seasonal decorations amid the production designs that at least get the look and feel of the holiday right, unlike the dead on arrival blandness of yesterday’s “Silent Night”. It’s clear that aside from Murphy’s contract, this was probably the next most expensive price tag behind the film’s budget, and when combined with a chestnut colored hue of consistency within the film’s lighting schemes, as well as a light and fluffy brand of cinematography, the movie’s visuals never disappoint in supplanting that one of a kind specificity that remains a constant throughout the film’s 106 minute run time, never to be condemned by the lack of snow that isn’t a trait of west coast Christmas’. As for Murphy, the decision to remove the leash and let him loose on the engagement is one that pays of in spades towards showing the three-dimensional charisma of Murphy’s range, with inspired energy that feels most appropriate for the tone and direction of the film’s bonkers story. One thing is for certain, Murphy is having the time of his life here, embracing the spirit that leads towards some of his best deliveries in years, and while alongside Tracie Ellis Ross, who commands her own warm-hearted sincerity in her approach, balances the hilarity of their dynamic with heart too big to be measured. In fact, there’s something special and commendable about seeing representation in a black upper class family living their best lives, and though the plot tests them in ways that threaten their picture perfect existence, color of characters is not something that’s often deviated in with these kind of movies, and considering the experience isn’t mean spirited or preachy with its commentary, I’m all for presenting a different side of the cultural Christmas to shine accordingly. Lastly, while the story eventually sank to chaotic waters, the promise of the plot did intrigue me a bit, especially with the ’12 Days of Christmas’ being repurposed as adversaries to this family’s ideal pageantry. It has that air of “Jumanji” to its madness that complimented the tone of the film accordingly, and even if it failed in conjuring a consistently entertaining experience, it’s a fresh idea to seasonal films that is anything but conventional.


Unfortunately, that’s where the movie’s beneficial factors end, as “Candy Cane Lane” is a creatively disjointed and convoluted effort that grows all the more tedious with each passing minute. It starts harmless enough as a neighborly competition for the best house decorations, but then quickly deviates towards a ‘Sell your soul’ kind of narrative for Murphy, as with the arrival of Jillian Hall’s evil Peppermint, the film turns into a strange conception of being a mission film, in which each member of Murphy’s family is forced to find the five golden rings to keep him from turning into one of Peppermint’s doll people. This creates a problem in itself, as the stop-motion animation of the special effects constantly slows down the frame rate of the presentation with choppy motions leading to stalled movements of the lens, and with the previous plot taking a backseat in focus to the newfound direction of the narrative, the film’s convoluted essence makes matters difficult to constantly follow or at the very least feel invested in. On top of this, the humor is sitcom levels of embarassing, which feels appropriate for Hudlin, as he spent a majority of his directorial career fronting the same kind of sitcoms that bare more than a striking resemblance to the material here. Corny PG humor is one thing, where characters use cutesy deliveries and exaggerated emphasis towards conjuring something accidentally effective, but tasteless gags like those of ones aimed at animal abuse or discrimination towards little people feel out of place in a film with so much yuletide cheer, leaving a majority of the gags not only ineffective but downright shameless in how they’re worked in so forcefully. Beyond this, the aforementioned dimensions of the plot’s evolution concoct the kind of arduous pacing that feels every inch of its nearly two hour run time, especially as the film’s third act deviates once more from artifact mission to three ring spectacle. While it is quite impressive to see the film’s final thirty minutes donated to an all out frenzy that serves as the pay-off to the character’s initial mission, the hijacking of focus from the primary plot pads the run time in ways that continuously drag the experience, leaving the absence of urgency in Murphy’s conflict without a means of accessing the kind of vulnerability in his character that could surmize some sort of heart to underline the constant schenanigans. The padding also carries over to the abundance of subplots deposited to each of the supporting characters, with nothing of vital importance to anything that plays out in the foreground of the plot, nor the resolution of these respective conflicts. Never do these arcs feel necessary to even be included, and while fleshing out the characters is admirable in a film with a big family, the threads they’re given are every bit predictable as they are uninteresting, leading to these sagging instances where we beg for the story to return to Murphy’s mission of the rings, regardless if it feels like it was manufactured on the fly, while shooting.

“Candy Cane Lane” is an occasionally sweet and appealing treat amidst its seasonal splendor, but its overstuffed creativity and bland characterization keep it from a charmingly infectious sugar rush, wasting away an unleashed Eddie Murphy performance in the wake of its devastation. Silly surreal films like these should’ve been left in the 90’s where they belong, but the objective to fill content to armies of streaming services accelerates them to greenlit territories, feeling perfect as that film you watch halfway to, fall asleep, then never return to again.

My Grade: 4/10 or D-

One thought on “Candy Cane Lane

  1. Honestly, just seeing the trailer for this one made me not want to see this so I’m glad that my assumptions were right. It’s nice that it’s has a decent heart and that Eddie Murphy is having fun, but your negatives especially your description of the humor sounds about as bad as I expected. It may give off the feeling of Christmas but he needs a good story and script to back it up. Nice work!

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